Upholstered Arched Top Headboard

I’m in the process of designing and building a King Sized bed frame that will have an Arched Top Headboard. The design criteria dictated that the bed had to be well built, aesthetically pleasing, and allow for some storage underneath.  After extensive research for weeks on the topic I decided there were 4 types of bed frames on the market.



  • Metal Frame: recommended by some mattress manufacturers or you void your “Mattress Warranty”. Ugly as sin.Metal king size bed frame specifications
  • Production Wood Frame: the bed rails are made from 4/4 stock (3/4″) and are 5-6 inches tall.  These are the minimum size and they must break a lot given the number of companies / people selling replacements on the web.  (as a side bar this is why I’m building a new frame)
  • DIY 2x or Plywood: These are made from construction 2x materials , or ply wood usually purchased from your local big box store, Lowes, Menards, Home depot etc. Douglas looks hat great stained up if your 19 and living in the dorm.
  • Wood Frame Custom Furniture: This is using better grade wood Maple, Oak, Cherry and making a design that can break down for transport but is aesthetically pleasing so your spouse or sleeping partner does leave you.


stained douglas fir

Stained Douglas Fir

Look on the web at how many companies and businesses sell replacement bed rail, and look at how they are made and you will quickly see this is the #1 failure point of a bed.  The rails are the most controversial part of making a bed frame.  Non-Engineering types tend to “over design using 2×6 or 2×8 material. Because of the size they tend to use less expensive wood like douglas fir and  aesthetics become an issue.

The manufactures, and following suit ,the replacement rail manufactures tend to want to use 3/4″ ply wood and dress the the edges with edge banding of solid wood strips. If they do use solid wood they tend to be only 5-6 inches tall and the ledger strip is either 3/4″ x 3/4″ or 1″ x 1”.  If your rails have very straight grain this may hold for a few years but if the grain is not straight there is a chance the bottom of the board will split where the grain edge and the long edge of the rail meet.

Another difference in bed frames is, if there is a center support, under the bed.  Metal frames, like those sold at Costco,  use  1-1/4” x 1-1/4” angle iron. Spanning a 76 inch wide King Size box spring will require a center support.  1 1/4″ is probably the most common size production metal from and in my opinion the bare minimum.  Companies like Michigan Discount Mattress uses 2″ x 1-1/2″ metal rails which they claim is 2x stronger, nut still requires a center support.

Some wood frame beds require a center support depending on the size of the wood. From an engineering point of view the strength of the rail increases as the cube of the height, but directly with the thickness. If you use soft wood you’ll need taller thicker wood. Hardwoods are stronger and you can reduce the size.  I going to use 5/4 hard maple 7: tall with a 1-1/4″ x 1-1/4″ ledger strip.  I have seen designs that look more like a wall laid flat 2 x 4s 16″ on center screwed to the rails foot board and headboard. The standard height of a bed frame is 7-1/2″ from floor to the bottom of the box spring. However in today’s market mattress heights can vary from 6: to over 14 inches.  The height of the frame needs to be married with the height of the mattress and or box spring to give you a comfortable height.

Hardware:  If your design has a foot board and a head board, there are basically 4 ways to attach the side rails to the headboard and foot board.

Bed Rail Hardware

Direct Attached with screws or lag bolts bed bolts

  • Pros: ease of installation
  • Cons: Visible hardware, but you can dress up or cover up the hardware.

Mortised Hardware:

  • Pros: Hidden
  • Cons: Screws don’t hold well in end grain.  If you are going down this path insert dowels from the inside of the rail to give the crews something to bite into.

Hook: probably the most common in  production beds

  • Pros: Hidden
  • Cons: requires a narrow mortise or kerf to insert the hardware.  Need to align pins that hold the hardware precisely. I have used this before and to get the slot I lowered the blade on my table saw. clamped the rail on end above the board. turned on the saw and raised the blade to cut the slot.  I offset the rail so the kerf wold not penetrate the top of the rail.

Surface Mount:

  • Pros: both pieces get screwed into the face of the rood not end grain.
  • Cons: protrudes out from the surface.

Foot Board Detail

Foot Board Detail














Cut Sheets:

Bed Cut Sheet 1 of 3











Bed Cut Sheet 2 of 3








to be continued